BRISBANE: Speedster Mitchell Starc took four for 52 as a middle-session blitz and some late new-ball fireworks helped Australia dismiss Pakistan for a modest first-innings score of 240 just before stumps on the opening day of the first Test in Brisbane on Thursday.
Pat Cummins took 3-60 and the third paceman Josh Hazlewood grabbed two as the Australian bowlers took the honours on a sunny day at the Gabba.
Pakistan’s Asad Shafiq offered most resistance to the barrage from the Australian pace battalion with a fine knock of 76 before he was ousted by a Cummins delivery that removed his middle stump.
Left-armer Starc took the second new ball in the final hour of the day and made good use of it, dismissing Yasir Shah (26) with a trademark yorker and Shaheen Shah Afridi (0) in successive deliveries to put himself on a hat-trick.
Nasim Shah, the 16-year-old fast bowler who was playing his first Test, faced the next delivery and, without appearing to know much about it, managed to keep the ball from hitting his stumps with a thick inside edge.
The teenager was the last batsman to depart, caught and bowled by Starc for seven to bring an end to a day that ebbed and flowed with long periods of Pakistani resistance punctuated by bursts of wickets.
“In the end, not a bad result,” said Australia captain Tim Paine. “We weren’t quite at our best in that first session, we thought we bowled a bit short ... But apart from that we stuck to the task and got better as the day went on.”
After losing the toss, Australia had been frustrated by an opening stand of 75 from Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali (39) and Shan Masood (27) in a partnership that lasted throughout the first session and into the second.
The Australian quicks finally found their length, however, and removed both in three deliveries before swiftly adding the wickets of Haris Sohail and Babar Azam for one run apiece.
That spell of four wickets at the cost of three runs had the tourists rocking and a rout looked in order when Iftikhar Ahmed departed — caught at short leg of Nathan Lyon — for seven to leave Pakistan on 95-5.
Cummins was fortunate to make the next breakthrough when he dismissed Mohammad Rizwan for 37 as the replays, when reviewed, showed what looked to be a no ball.
“I look at the scoreboard, it says a wicket,” Cummins added. “I’ll take it but I was really nervous until they put the finger up.”
Asad clearly enjoys playing Down Under, however, and backed up centuries in Pakistan’s two tour matches at a ground where he scored 137 when the tourists came close to chasing down an unlikely victory in the day-night Test in 2016.
Reflecting the discipline that the openers had earlier employed, he brought up his 24th Test half-century in a partnership of 84 with Yasir before Australia took the new ball and seized the day.
“We are not too unhappy but it could have been a lot better,” said Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis. “The first session we thought would be difficult we got through pretty well, but then we gave it away. We need a really good session tomorrow (Friday] to be in the game.”
It was an extraordinary debut day for Nasim as it started with an emotional presentation of his first Test cap. His inclusion for the series opener made the rookie fast bowler the youngest player to make Test debut in Australia.
It all happened little more than a week after his mother’s death back home in Lower Dir, and Nasim wiped away tears after Waqar — one of Pakistan’s greatest fast bowlers — presented him with his green cap before the start of play.
PAKISTAN (1st Innings):
Shan Masood c Smith b Cummins 27
Azhar Ali c Burns b Hazlewood 39
Haris Sohail c Paine b Starc 1
Asad Shafiq b Cummins 76
Babar Azam c Burns b Hazlewood 1
Iftikhar Ahmed c Labuschagne b Lyon 7
Mohammad Rizwan c Paine b Cummins 37
Yasir Shah b Starc 26
Shaheen Shah Afridi c Paine b Starc 0
Nasim Shah c and b Starc 7
Imran Khan not out 5
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-8, W-1, NB-1) 14
TOTAL (all out, 86.2 overs) 240
FALL OF WKTS: 1-75, 2-75, 3-77, 4-78, 5-94, 6-143 7-227, 8-227, 9-227. BOWLING: Starc 18.2-52-4 (1w); Hazlewood 20-6-46-2 (1nb); Cummins 22-7-60-3; Lyon 17-3-40-1; Labuschagne 8-0-24-0; Smith 1-0-6-0.
AUSTRALIA: J.A. Burns, D.A. Warner, M. Labuschagne, S.P.D. Smith, T.M. Head, M.S. Wade, T.D. Paine, P.J. Cummins, M.A. Starc, N.M. Lyon, J.R. Hazlewood. UMPIRES: R.A. Kettleborough (England) and R.K. Illingworth (England). TV UMPIRE: M.A. Gough (England). MATCH REFEREE: J.J. Crowe (New Zealand).
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2019